Potentially damaging case against ABC News continues in South Dakota; Rebel Wilson wins her case against Bauer Media

Morning Brief: Texas Gov. Abbot becomes the latest Republican elected official to push for an end to the requirement that legal notices be publishing in local newspapers

Travel day today, but later this morning there will be a great guest column from Ben Barokas, CEO and Co-Founder of Sourcepoint, regarding ad blocking and the opportunities that exist to expand their audiences.

Meanwhile, the ABC News-BPI defamation trial continues in South Dakota. This case has not gotten a lot of attention due to the continued issues with the president, and the much more high profile trial involving Bill Cosby.

The case, in brief, involves a report by ABC TV News Reporter Jim Avila about so-called “pink slime” — a controversial additive to ground beef that the plaintiff in the case, Beef Products Incorporated says is fine, and should be called “lean finely textured beef.”

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This week, Avila (above) testified in the case, being heard in the Union County Court House in Elk Point, South Dakota, giving BPI quite a home court advantage.

If the case seems like a minor thing, just remember this, BPI is seeking $1.9 billion in damages.

Radio Iowa:

Jurors hear ABC reporter’s testimony in BPI defamation trial

Avila said he didn’t know Gerald Zirnstein, a former U.S.D.A. scientist used as a source was a crusader against LFTB. He was asked if that would have made a difference in his report. “I don’t think that has any indication of bias whatsoever. He was a U.S.D.A. microbiologist intimately involved in the product,” Avila replied. Zirnstein is credited with coining the term “pink slime.”

Avila was also questioned about his use of that term. “I think I used the term pink slime more often than I did LFTB,” Avila said. “Because as you will see, lean finely textured beef does not exactly roll off the tongue.”

Webb asked Avila several times if he thought using “pink slime” to describe a food product was derogatory. Avila hedged and referred back to Zirnstein. “I would say that it was coined by Gerald Zirnstein. That he did not mean to use it as a compliment. That it was in fact meant to be a critical comment, yes,” Avila said.

Argus-Leader, Mark Walker:

ABC News reporter concluded ‘there was a story to do’ on beef product

“Two very distinguished scientists looked at this product and said it doesn’t belong in ground beef,” Avila said in the disposition.

Webb asked Avila if he found the statements the men made to be credible.

Avila said scientists provided the same information The New York Times and The Daily with no retractions or corrections ever surfacing. Avila said he had no reason to believe his sources weren’t credible and interviewed them before pitching the story.



One trial that has been big news down under, not nearly so in the US and Europe, has just had the jury decide: the Australian actress Rebel Wilson has won her defamation trial against Bauer Media.

The case involves a story from May 2015 in the Australian magazine Woman’s Day which Wilson claimed made her out to be a serial liar when the magazine questioned her story about her age and upbringing.

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The Sydney Morning Herald, Liam Mannix:

‘I had to take a stand’: Rebel Wilson set for big payday after defamation win

Hollywood star Rebel Wilson could potentially be paid out millions of dollars after a jury sided with her in a defamation trial against the publisher of Woman’s Day.

An all-female six-person jury deliberated for two days over their verdict, in which they were asked to consider 40 questions about eight potentially defamatory magazine articles, before handing down their decision on Thursday afternoon…

…In Victoria, damages for non-economic loss – pain and suffering – in a defamation suit are capped at nearly $400,000…

…Ms Wilson appeared at every day of the three-week hearing, but nearly missed the jury’s verdict after her car became stuck in traffic on the way to the courthouse. She eventually arrived mid-way through.



A story that just won’t go away, much to the horror of newspaper owners, is that Republican governors are targeting the requirement that legal notices be published in local newspapers, a practice that goes back decades.

Of course, the argument is that today most citizens get their news online. But, in my mind, the best argument for continuing the practice of publishing them in newspapers is that there is a permanent record of the notice.

In Texas, the fight regarding notices involves tax notices, with Gov. Greg Abbott wanting to end the requirement, and the state’s press association trying to resist the move.

Texas Press Association, Mike Hodges and Donnis Baggett:

Keep public notices in newspapers

Texas Gov. Abbott called the Legislature back to Austin on July 18 for a special session, and that could mean bad news for public notices. If you want to keep tax notices in newspapers, you need to call your state representative and your state senator NOW, while they’re at home in the district and before they return to Austin. Here’s why:

The governor listed property tax reform as a special session priority. During the regular session, some amendments to tax reform legislation would have allowed taxing entities to simply post notices of their tax rates on their government websites rather than provide mail or newspaper notice as currently required. Unless a taxpayer checked the websites of all his local taxing entities at the right time, he wouldn’t know a tax increase was in the works until it was too late.

Houston Chronicle, Vernon Loeb:

For Gov. Abbott, California is a dirty word

For Gov. Greg Abbott, comparing Texas to California is a troubling. Shortly before he took office in 2015, he told a conservative forum that “Texas is being Californianized and you may not even be noticing it.” He was referring to all sorts of local government restrictions that were “eroding the Texas model” of less government.

This helps explain why Abbott put legislation on his special session agenda that would prohibit local governments from telling people they can’t cut down trees on their own property. He noted in a radio interview that the city of Austin had told him he couldn’t cut down a pecan tree in his yard, which he likened to “trying to send Texas down the pathway to California”…

…Back when Abbott first warned of Texas being “Californianized,” our state was still riding the energy boom and more than holding its own in its mega-state rivalry with California. But ever since the price of oil crashed, things haven’t looked so good for Texas, which has been pretty badly out-performed by blue, liberal California, as our regional economics writer, Lydia DePillis, recently wrote in Texanomics.

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